How Google’s new Maps for Apple Watch stacks up to Apple’s native app

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple Maps adds its 3D flyover view to new cities, towns, and castles.

I was waiting for Google Maps to arrive on my wrist for easily accessible public transit directions, but iOS 9 and watchOS 2 put Apple’s own transit directions on the watch.At Google’s press event today, the company announced a number of new products and updates, including two new Nexus smartphones, two Chromecast devices, a new Android tablet and more, but one thing it kept under wraps was news of a notable new application arriving on the iOS platform: Google Maps now works on Apple Watch.Apple have added several new Flyover locations to Apple Maps on Mac and iOS, highlighting landmarks and features in several countries including Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.

While Google Maps might have the edge on its mapping rivals in terms of features, Apple’s own Maps app has one thing Google’s doesn’t — its 3D Flyover mode. Through an update to the Google Maps iOS app on the iTunes App Store, Google has quietly rolled out an Apple Watch version of its popular (and, even among Apple fans, often preferred) mapping application. For those unfamiliar with the Flyover feature in Apple Maps, it lets users see photo-realistic 3D videos of select areas, which they can zoom, pan, and rotate through to get a close up look at notable landmarks and points of interest. The viewing option overlays detailed images of a location onto precise topographical and structural data, allowing you to zoom in on accurately portrayed buildings, hills, and other landmarks that look like little toy versions of themselves.

The new Watch app offers a simpler version of Google Maps compared to what’s available on smartphones, as it’s designed to work more as a companion app to the richer, more feature-rich smartphone counterpart. A single location in Mexico and two new locations in Japan were also added to the service, bringing the number of Flyover locations up to more than 160 locations. On the Watch app, you can tap buttons to quickly get routes to saved locations, like “Home” or “Work.” In addition, when you pull up directions on your iPhone, these are immediately synced to Apple Watch so that they’re accessible when you launch the app on your smartwatch. Included in the latest batch are tourist hotspots such as Florence, Genoa, and Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, a Bavarian hilltop palace that looks like something out of a fairytale.

Some cities — including Tokyo, London, and New York — have the option for the user to go on a Flyover “guided tour,” the view sweeping in and out of key locations, areas, and tourist sights. Google Maps is seen by many as the market leader but speaking in June Craig Federighi, Apple’s software VP, said that Apple Maps was used 3.5-times more often than the “next leading maps app,” notching up 5 billion requests per week. Google wants to show support for iOS, which is great news for iOS users who love Google’s apps, but it’s not developing anything amazing—and that’s a recurring theme. A news and weather app and a mapping app are both perfect use cases for the watch, and yet Google News & Weather and Google Maps are both completely lackluster.

The first, “Google News & Weather,” was a fairly bare-bones application that felt more like Google was experimenting with building for Apple Watch and its related feature sets rather than a real attempt at developing something useful for Apple Watch owners. And while Apple Maps still lacks the Street View features of Google’s competing service, the company is apparently attempting to catch up with its rival. When you first launch News, the app will ask you to choose a few favourite publications from a list of familiar names; such as Fairfax titles Vanity Fair, and The Guardian. These apps tend to scrape news sites and Twitter feeds to create story previews in app, then throw you to a browser view, ads and all, when you select an article.

Apple, being Apple, has been able to secure many big name publishers at launch, so you remain in the clean interface of the News app at all times, never being thrown to a web view. And as Apple moved towards a flatter design, the wooden shelves of the Newsstand app, with its little folded over newspaper and magazine icons, looked like relics of the past.

It’s a beautiful, minimal design that has learnt from success of apps like Flipboard, and from the company’s own previous missteps, to create a personal magazine for every reader.

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